At 6pm this evening, Archbishop Justin Welby and Pope Francis will jointly lead a service at San Gregorio al Celio, Rome. The Sistine Chapel Choir and the choir of Canterbury Cathedral will be part of the service. This service marks the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Archbishop Justin will give the address.
The current Director of the Anglican centre is New Zealand’s Archbishop David Moxon (he wrote the Foreword of my book Celebrating Eucharist).
I’ve visited San Gregorio, attached to the monastery of Camaldolese Benedictines. St. Augustine of Canterbury was prior here, and was sent from here by Pope Gregory I to England in 597 AD. [In the 1970s, the Camaldolese monks invited Teresa of Calcutta to set up a food kitchen for the poor of the city in a building attached to the monastery.]
Anglican Primates have been meeting in Canterbury since 30 September (two of the Primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia are present: Philip Richardson and Winston Halapua). In Rome the dialogue will be part of the ongoing Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC).
Nineteen pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops from around the world have been chosen by IARCCUM (the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission) to work together in joint mission. These bishops will be commissioned at the service today.
Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey had a historic meeting in 1966 – that meeting is the foundation of the Anglican Centre. Archbishop Justin will wear a significant ring:
As Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, were leaving the basilica of St Paul’s outside the walls in Rome, during their historic meeting 50 years ago, the Pope drew him aside, as if to show him some ancient frescoes, and said something that the Archbishop did not catch. His 35-year-old secretary, Fr John Andrew, said: “Take off your ring.”
The Pope took Ramsey’s right hand and put upon his finger a ring. Its green stone mount was quartered by a thin gold cross, the angles marked by four square diamonds. It had been given to him by the people of Milan when he became Archbishop there in 1954.